Manipal Institute of Regenerative Medicine, MAHE, Manipal
National Centre for Biological Sciences, TIFR, Bangalore
The well-beaten path of academia did not lure me much initially. After my post graduation, I wanted to explore industrial research and was selected by Reliance LIfe Sciences (RLS), Mumbai through their 'YOUNG SCIENTIST PROGRAM', where I was trained for one year extensively on all laboratory techniques and tissue culture SOPs. Thereafter, I worked with the Regenerative Medicine Group at RLS on dopaminergic differentiation from human embryonic stem cells (hESC). In 2009, I shifted base to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia due to personal commitments and joined Brain Research Institute Monash Sunway (BRIMS), Monash University to look at orphan GPCRs in GnRH neurons of zebrafish. However, I could not generate the same passion that I felt when I was working in the field of stem cells. After more than 5 years of valuable exposure to both industry and academia, I was now sure of what I wanted!
In 2011, I joined the Dr. TMA Pai PhD Scholarship Program at Manipal Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore under the supervision of Prof. Ramesh Bhonde. To investigate the role of resident pancreatic stem cells in diabetic mice models, islet-like clusters were generated in vitro from these adult pancreatic stem cells to compare their global gene expression and cytokine profiles with native primary islets. Fortunately, I had a guide who strongly advocated work-life balance and supported me to complete my PhD while raising a child. I joined Prof. Gaiti hasan's lab at NCBS (TIFR), Bangalore in 2015 and set up hESC cultures to model neurodegenerative disorders. While I brought my stem cell-based expertise and skill sets to the table, I was introduced to the fascinating world of calcium signaling during my postdoc (DBT-RA). Being in NCBS under her mentorship enabled me to widen my horizons in several ways and helped me evolve as an independent researcher.
Currently, I am interested to find out how the function of dopaminergic neurons (Substantia Nigra Pars Compacta, SNpc) in the human brain is affected by altering Store Operated calcium Entry (SOCE), an ER-driven arm of calcium signaling. In Parkinson's disease models (flies, rodents and cell-based) loss of SOCE is known to trigger degeneration of dopaminergic neurons. In this project, I aim to investigate the mutations that are documented to have a direct link to calcium homeostasis in order to understand the mechanistic role of SOCE and its corresponding targets in genetic Parkinson's disease.